SpaceX reportedly has a date for the first Falcon 9 rocket launch since September’s launchpad explosion. Iridium Communications Inc. announced today that SpaceX plans to launch 10 small satellites into orbit for the company at 3:36PM ET on December 16th. The launch would take place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, though SpaceX is still awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA, NASA, and the US Air Force are still currently investigating the September incident, and a full accident report should be released soon. The Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, just days before it was scheduled to deliver the Amos 6 satellite to space. The satellite — which Facebook had planned to use to deliver wireless connectivity to sub-Saharan Africa as part of its Internet.org project — was also lost in the explosion.
Three months is a quick turnaround
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed in early November that his company determined helium tanks inside the Falcon 9 to be involved in the explosion. Helium tanks were also involved in the company’s June 2015 rocket failure, though SpaceX has said that the two incidents were not related. That explosion happened mid-flight — the rocket disintegrated 2 minutes and 19 seconds after liftoff.
To return to flight just three months after an explosion would be a feat for SpaceX, and would help the company keep its busy launch schedule in check. It took SpaceX just under six months to return to flight after that rocket failure in June 2015. Tory Bruno, the CEO of SpaceX competitor the United Launch Alliance, told Reuters in September that "it typically takes nine to 12 months for people to return to flight. That's what the history is.”